Regional approach to gender-based violence forthcoming
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat are collaborating to bring together a consortium of experts to provide guidance on a common approach to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Region.
Under the Spotlight Initiative (SI), a project titled the Essential Services Package (ESP) Community of Practice (CoP) will be launched on Tuesday and Wednesday 24-25th of May in Trinidad and Tobago. Experts in health, policing, justice, social services, humanitarian aid and education, will endorse a regional roadmap that will allow key regional Institutions and National Gender Machineries across the Caribbean, to establish standards and priorities in ensuring service provision for survivors of GBV is of the highest quality. The ESP CoP will be the first regional GBV coordination mechanism for the Caribbean, and it will be co-chaired by CARICOM and UNFPA in its first year of operation.
The Spotlight Initiative aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It is an international and multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations. The SI represents a global investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment and is expected to spur the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 in African, Pacific and Caribbean states.
The ESP CoP is being pursued as evidence shows that GBV, particularly Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is pervasive in the Caribbean. Research has revealed that the first sexual encounter for 48% of adolescent girls in nine Caribbean territories was forced or somewhat forced. That phenomenon is viewed as a contributing factor to the Caribbean having one of the highest adolescent fertility rates in the world, with 60.2 births per 100 women registered to females ages 15 to 19 for the period 2010-2015. Even more alarming is research findings that showed three Caribbean countries among the top ten countries in the world with the highest reported rates of rape.
Additionally, studies undertaken in several CARICOM countries have estimated a high prevalence of intimate partner violence and child sexual abuse, as well as significant risks for women and girls’ survivors being killed by their intimate partners.
Apart from GBV, women and girls are also disproportionately affected during humanitarian crises including natural disasters and pandemics. In fact, women and girls are at an increased risk for violence during those times because of movement restrictions, unemployment, economic and food insecurity, and elevated levels of stress.
Gender Advocates are concerned that socio-economic factors, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a decrease in availability of protection and health services for survivors of VAWG.
Against that backdrop, it is anticipated that the Regional ESP CoP will define priorities to inform an intersectoral capacity building strategy to improve policies and programmes to address GBV and VAWG, at the regional and national levels.
The project is expected to become the backbone for technical support as efforts are engineered for the Region to adopt a common framework on GBV and VAWG, with a strong humanitarian component.